Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Year and A Half Out: On The Eiffel Tower

A year and a half out: On the Eiffel Tower.

After we had walked up all those stairs we were rewarded with a view to the whole of Paris. I had just met Katie, Piper, and Jess. I barely had spent any time with Alicia. I had only known Claire and Alex for 9 weeks. I had only known James for a little under two years. Yet we all were happy to be together. On the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Americans huddled together. Abroad students looking to mutually enjoy the once in a lifetime experience. All of us independent for once, adults seeing the world. But all of us children on the inside, just as insecure, unable to see the world right side up.

Quite literally.

“Do this, it's so much cooler this way,” Piper said as she leaned her back over the edge and watched Paris upside-down. I followed suit. So did Claire.

A deep blue emptiness with pinholes of yellow greeted my disoriented body. I was falling into nothingness, holding onto the railing of the Eiffel Tower. I leaned back a bit more and terra firma, a black and orange city became my ceiling. Paris was beautiful, but this view was surreal, and somehow it felt like the real view—the correct one.

I slowly rotated forward until the Eiffel Tower, shooting into the night, appeared. It was a mess of beautifully lit steel, a ramp from the edge of the earth into nothing. The spotlight swept across my view. It illuminated nothing.

“Wow,” Claire said. We looked out on the city for a while. Soon our whole group had seen Paris in its correct form. And we made our descent through the steel carapace, the symbolic soul of Paris.

I remember the oddest bits about that night. Piper wore blue. Katie was in heels. Katie found me and grabbed me. She told me she was going to get to know me. Carefully making our way down the stairs, I think we chatted about feminism mostly. I got the sense that she was intensely smart, someone testing my brain, seeing what lay beneath. I had walked all day. I was exhausted and hungry. Starved. But the city was far too beautiful. Under the enormous arches of the Eiffel Tower, I took a look around the plaza. My legs were shaking I was so tired. But my friends were standing in a group deciding where to go next.

As much as I remember the light, I remember the dark. I was never sure what I was looking at. I had met people whose faces I now know so well, but back then they were dark shadows wearing dark colors. A mass of people I was slightly overwhelmed by. For that brief moment upside-down on the Eiffel Tower I felt alone and together.

Alone in that I felt so small against the endless black. A ground that was an empty nothingness. Together in that humanity was the sky, new friends the tethers holding me to the orange lights.

It was the briefest of moments. Infinitely long in my mind, my world. And permanent in my consciousness. But gone forever. Just a blurry line in a photo. And that is how life is. A smudge against an otherwise beautiful cityscape; indefinite, transitory. Gone. But that’s ok.

That moment, a fraction of myself, has become such a huge part of who I am. And so it goes with much of life. That uncertain moment where the world isn’t quite upright, the body is tired, and people of great importance arrive silently. They join into the fold without the greatest of impressions; a mere seed planted in the consciousness. And some seeds I have watered and cared for. And they have grown into trees that give me blossoms at the end of a dreary winter, and shade in the hottest parts of the day.

I walked up the stairs to see the view from the Eiffel Tower. I found seven people that I cannot imagine my life without now. I walked up all those stairs and was rewarded with friends that have a view to my life that no one else ever will.